Microsoft Outlook Add-ins

Just a super-quick post here.

If you’re looking for addons or plugins for Microsoft Outlook to help you organize your emails and extend the functionality of Outlook

(note Outlook is very extensible, as with all Microsoft Office applications you can write Visual Basic code for Applications to hook into it’s functions. Absaloutely fantastic for hacking excel as I have been doing for the last few weeks – my work needs to invest in a proper database program for sure *sigh*)

You’d do no better than looking here

Snapfiles Outlook Add-ons

http://www.snapfiles.com/freeware/comm/fwoutlook.html

 

They have addons that are useful – and unlike most of the sites on i’ve found so far – up to date and compatible with recent versions (2003+) of Outlook.

Hope this helps folks!

 

How a website Works

This is just a quick guide on how a website stays online. It’ll probably be common knowledge to most reading this blog, but good to put up anyway.

You may think when you visit, for example, bbc.co.uk that it’s just “there”, and not worry about how, but my job is dependent on the how. The error messages you see when a website isn’t working are also very descriptive, but quite cryptic if you’re not in the know.

All websites are hosted on servers. A server is just a computer which we use to serve others, so in this case, serve a website, or provide email services. Normally, a server is a rackserver, designed to fit in a small space with a lot of other computers in a datacentre, far, far removed from that big beige box that allows you to browse the internet.

When you visit a website, a lot of different things are happening in the background. Firstly, your computer looks up the computer address with the domain name you just visited. Say you just hit my site, “kirrus.co.uk”. Well, the internet addressing system, that tells your computer where to look for the website is based in numbers. So, your computer asks special servers on the internet, we call “Domain Name Servers”, what the address is for that website. In this case, they’ll reply “80.87.131.49”. Your web-browser, firefox, will then ask for “kirrus.co.uk” from my server “80.87…”). Everyone has one of these IP addresses, even you. Go to http://itempeter.com to see yours 🙂

Once my server has the request, it then sends the web-page back to your computer.

What is a webpage?

A webpage, as your computer sees it, is a collection of a couple of languages. The most basic is “HTML”, or “HyperText Markup Language”. This was designed to allow you to quickly put together a webpage – all you do is wrap (or mark up) the text you want with the flags you want. For example <b>word</b> tells your computer to make word bold, so, you see: word

You can see the HTML that makes up this page by clicking on “View” and then “View Source” in your web-browser.

That’s the most basic level. It gets a lot more complex than that under the skin, with extra languages running on your computer (JavaScript, CSS [Cascading Style Sheet]), and on the server (PHP – PreHypertextProcessor, ASP, perl, python, MySQL) but they’re all too complex to go into unless you want to create dynamic websites. A good place to go if you want to create webpages is w3schools.com, where they have lots of tutorials on all the major web languages.

Reporting Problems

Have you ever had to talk to tech support? Ask for help, when your computer, your email account, or your internet connection isn’t working?

Ever wondered what’s going through the mind of the person answering? Quite often, it’s this: “I’m not a mind reader!”

Working at a web-host, at least once a week, I get an email that goes “My email isn’t working” or “Please setup a new virtual host for me”. Those questions, whilst they make a lot of sense to the asker, who has the context in mind, make very little to me. What is wrong with the email account? What domain name do I need to add to the server, what server do I need to setup the hosting on? Hence, I’m not a mind reader 🙂

So, if you ever need to report a problem, give us as much detail as possible. What happens when you check your email? Do you get any error messages? Describe the steps you take, so that we can replicate your problem on our machines – fixing it is a lot easier when we can see it happening.

NaBloPoMo – Starting is always good…

Danni blogged about starting NaBloPoMo, or writing a blog post every day in the month of November. This is for those who can’t take part in the “write a book in a month” NaNoWriMo

So, I decided to start as well.. maybe I’ll actually get more active online again 🙂 Not quite sure what I’m actually going to write about over this month, but we’ll see how it goes.

US Election

Erm.. yes. Well, to be honest, I really couldn’t care less about the US election. Yes, I know the guy that gets elected will change the world (probably for the worse. Sorry guys, but your track record isn’t that good.) But I don’t care. Why? What will me worrying, thinking and reading about the US election give me?

Useful knowledge? Only if I’m an American. A sense of inclusion? erm… not an American. Warm fuzzy feeling? Ok, so now I’m just getting silly.

I can’t affect it in any way, so why should I spend my time reading up on it, and worrying on it? However, for those Americans who are reading, I’m not anti-american! (Most of the time 😉 )

Flatmates

Argh! They can be so frustrating! Its in our lease that we shouldn’t smoke. And they do. This morning, I was woken up by a guy from the downstairs flat, livid that again, he had lots of cigarette butts under his bedroom window. Unsurprisingly (in a 2 bed flat), the window just above his is my flatmates.

Then, we had an argument about the electric bill – apparently £40 is too much for 2 months, and she wants to move us to a different provider, which I really don’t want to do, because our provider is Good Energy (100% renewable). Not sure how that one’s going to turn out.

Early last month, I put the central heating on… next argument. Apparently, having the central heating on in October is madness, even though the temperature in the flat at the time was 15 degrees centigrade. Sorry, but that’s too cold for me when I’m sitting still for an hour or 3 next to a computer. (I’m a computer geek, what do you expect!) Finally defused that one, by agreeing to pay 2/3rds of the gas bill. (When she has her boyfriend around, who doesn’t help pay for any bills [apart from sky tv]). I feel like my kindness and “sure, I don’t mind that you have 3 friends round, I don’t mind that your boyfriend stays all the time and doesn’t help pay” attitude is being abused, and I don’t know what to do about it or how to deal with it.

The gas bill thing got brought up this month as well – apparently I have the central heating on FAR too much. Is 2 hours in the morning, before work, and 5 hours in the evening after work too much? Please comment!

Work

Of late I’ve been working a lot. We’re moving Data centres, which is interesting – the new one is quite good, if a bit isolated, but its tiring. Still its fun getting to see every server we have 🙂

I have a couple of things I want to get done (like upgrading our internal wiki), but getting round to it is proving difficult due to the move increasing our workload. (Thankyou hardware raid array for deciding to wipe your partition table instead of rebuilding with your nice shiny new hard-drive, causing one of our sysadmin genius’s to have to rebuild it.)

Hello

Sorry for the large gap in my posting. I’ve just moved to London and whilst my work is internet-related, did not feel it right for me to use the office PCs & net connection to blog, whilst I await a broadband service to be connected at home 🙂

I do like to keep some separation between home and work.

Anyway, I finally signed out the office 3G USB stick, so that I can have internet access at home. (To check it works, when I go on-call this weekend and get woken up at stupid hours in the morning when servers go down, because trust me. They will. Of course. That is the only reason. Being able to blog again is only a happy side effect. *ahem* 😉 )

So far, it seems to work ok. I’ve not had any problems really, apart from having to add a new section in my firewall configuration so that the relevant holes will be opened in my laptop’s defence. If you’re interested (comment) I’ll post the version of the stick we’ve got, and how to make it work in Hardy.

Also, this connection is of course, compressed like nothing by Vodaphone. So much so that images coming down look… well very bad. Anyway, as most of what I do online is text based, I’m not crying too much. Just one question, for those of you with 3G compressed data-sticks: Is the upstream also compressed to corruption? I’m asking, as I have a set of images from my camera, that I really should look at uploading, but I don’t want them to be compressed on the way to flikr, or this site.

Right. Its late, and I want to go to bed. Night all 🙂

Moved & a couple of Apache2 tools/tricks

If you can can see this post, then my server move is complete. I have moved this blog across to a dedicated server, provided by my employers, Positive Internet.

So far, I’ve not done too much playing with it, but in case you need to know, adding this in your apache2.conf file will allow it to read .htaccess files in any /home/<username>/public_html/ document roots – handy if you don’t want to use /var/www/ to store all your websites.

<Directory /home/*/public_html>
        AllowOverride All
</Directory>

There are a couple of useful apache2 tools which don’t get a lot of publicity.

a2enmod – enable a mod in apache. You’ll need to reload apache after running it. If you run it without specifying a mod, it will list all available ones.

a2dismod – disable a mod. Again, if you run it without specifying a mod it will list all enabled ones, before giving you a prompt asking which one to disable.

Along similar lines, if you’re using sites-available/sites-enabled to quickly enable/disable vhosts, you can use:

a2ensite – enable a website.

a2dissite – disable a website.

Of course, you can then use apache2ctl graceful to restart the webserver nicely – so the changes take effect, but you don’t close all the connections currently talking to apache.

Have fun!